Wondering how you can travel from home without stepping outside your front door? Then look no further than this list of the best travel documentaries and TV shows that will whisk you from your armchair to another country!
1) The Long Way Round
Two men taking motorcycles from London on a journey east all the way around the world might not sound that appealing but trust me, this is one of the best travel series I have ever seen!
Long time friends Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman spend several months planning this epic journey around the world. The Long Way Round journey begins in London and ends in New York – the longest route around the world – and takes you through Kazakhstan, Russia, Mongolia right round to Alaska and more.
A film crew follows them but is always around a day behind and generally only meets them at border crossings, so you see the real good, bad and ugly of travel by motorbike through some harsh but beautiful landscapes.
2) The Long Way Down
Not satisfied with their journey around the world, Ewan and Charlie return for another motorcycle adventure taking the Long Way Down, starting from the tip of Scotland John O’Groats to the southernmost point in Africa, Cape Agulhas.
The 15,000-mile bike adventure is an even harder challenge than the previous with extreme temperatures and harsh climate to deal with. But as with the Long Way Round, McGregor and Boorman are hilarious and honest making this series an absolute must watch!
3) The Kindness Diaries
In this series, we follow Leon Logothetis as he travels the world on the kindness of strangers. In the first series, Leon travels from LA through the US, Europe and Asia – hitting countries including Italy, Croatia, Greece, Turkey, India, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam, travelling by vintage motorbike with no money in his pockets. Leon relies on the kindness of strangers to give him food and a place to stay each night.
The Kindness Diaries Series 2 repeats the same idea, but instead Leon travels from Alaska, through the US down into South America in a vintage VW Beetle.
This show demonstrates the kind hearts of strangers as Leon meets hundreds of people who help him and have also dedicated their lives to helping others.
4) Street Food
Available on Netflix, this 9 part documentary takes you to a different street market in Asia in each 30-minute episode. If you like to travel for food, then this series is for you!
Discover the delicacies on offer in Bangkok, Osaka, Delhi, Yogyakarta, Chiayi, Seoul, Ho Chi Minh City, Singapore and Cebu. Each episode comes with a story of the people who make the food, including a Bangkok chef who has a Michelin-star after spending decades making crab omelets and the obsession with chicken rice of the hawkers of Singapore.
5) Anything By David Attenborough
I personally loved watching Galapagos before my trip to the islands to get to learn about the history and emergence of these islands off the coast of Ecuador.
6) Around The Next Bend
This 12 part documentary follows two young adventurers as they go on a 2,500 km rafting expedition along the famous Ganges river in India.
7) March of The Penguins
Who doesn’t want to spend an hour or two watching penguins making their way through Antarctica to the dulcet tones of narrator Morgan Freeman?
8) Figure It Out: On The Hayduke Trail
If you enjoy hiking or magnificent scenery then you will love following this trail as each episode takes you to a new part of the route, covering places such as Arches National Park, Moab, Escalante, The Wave, the Grand Canyon, Zion and Colorado City.
The documentary also explores how we can use the lessons that are learned whilst out in the wilderness to improve our day to day lives.
9) Salt Of The Earth
Salt Of The Earth is an Oscar-nominated 2014 documentary about the life and work of Brazilian photo-journalist Sebastião Salgado. Salgado spent 40 years documenting groups of people in remote corners of South America, Africa and Central Europe.
The documentary sees Salgado talk about the stories behind the photographs and whilst sometimes difficult to watch it is a fascinating look into some areas of the world we may not ever explore ourselves.
10) Free Solo
Free Solo is the story of solo climber Alex Hannold climbing 3,200 ft El Capitan in Yosemite National Park with no ropes. Winner of the 2019 Academy Award for Best Documentary, this is a heart pounding story of one man’s obsession to do what has never been done before.
The documentary will keep you on the edge of your seat, with amazing footage and heart stopping moments as you watch Alex’s attempt to climb El Capitan completely solo, sans ropes and all.
11) Expedition Happiness
Follow the journey of Felix Starck and his girlfriend Mogli as they adventure through North America in a refurbished school bus.
Starck is famous for the documentary Pedal The World, where he goes on an 18,000-kilometer journey by bicycle through 22 countries. Arguably Pedal The World is the better of the two documentaries, with Expedition Happiness a nice idea and an easy watch, but a little light on culture or interesting activities.
12) Anthony Bourdain: A Cooks Tour
In this series, famous food writer and presenter Anthony Bourdain travels the world indulging his passion for trying local cuisines. Along the way, Bourdain meets several eccentric characters bringing life to this docu-series.
Other Recommended Travel Documentaries
- The Local Traveller In Thailand Solo millennial traveller, Libby Vincek explores Thailand staying only with local families
- Around The World For Free Alex Boylan circumnavigated the world without a penny in his pockets!
- Mother India Compelling documentary showing the lives of 25 orphans in India living along the railway
- Unbounded A team of twenty-something travellers hike the Greater Patagonian Trail
- DIY Destinations Budget Travel Show Discover the best budget travel destinations around the world
- Rick Steves Europe In the 7 seasons of this series, Rick Steves guides you through Europe showcasing his favourite spots and some off the beaten path destinations
I hope that this article has given you some ideas for how to travel through documentaries. If you have any other favourite travel documentaries or series not included please leave these in the comments below.
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